eating small game from your yard -- warning, graphic

mountainmoma's picture

So, for many of us trying to grow our own food we are fighting "nibblers" to get a yield, like rabbits and squirrels. Obviously, what we should be doing is turning the tables and adding them in as a protein source. This is a useful skill to practice now when you aren't too hungry. Like gardening, it is something that takes practice of some of the skills before you have to.

Those of us living in neighborhoods have trouble safely shooting, although for some, they may be able to use a pellet gun. Snare could kill non-target species, like your cat. I am absolutely overrun with cottontail bunnies right now, they are so overpopulated they not only are keeping me from being able to set out all the vegetable starts I have ( except potatoes, they do not eat potato tops) but they have eaten down the native plants on the outskirts, alot.

I borrowed a live trap from a neighbor and put a piece of carrot in. First day, they ate the carrot and somehow didnt set off the trap, next time reset caught one in the first hour, as it was almost dusk.

Now I had the problem of how to kill the bunny. -- warning skip this paragraph if you dont want to think about this -- Many moral conversations developed over this. Options other than shooting that we came up with are : a bolt gun, like people who raise tame rabbits for food use. I think this is best if you will have to do this often, quick, safe for home use, but most of us do not own one; shoot it, which may be hard in a neighborhood; drop the live trap in a trash can of water and come back 10 minutes later, which is ok if it is all you can manage, not best, but no worse than their usual demise of being ripped apart by a coyote, racoon or red tail hawk; Quick dispatch more hands on is bludgeon, slit throat or break its neck. Sorry to be so graphic . An aquaintance of mine volunteered to do the deed on this one. He looked it up on the computer ( why you want to either do these things or download instructions in print form now, etc... but practice is best as some things will suit you more than others). We had decided that a quick break its neck would be most humane, and he thought he could handle it. I did not watch. He reports that it was quick and easy and the bunny was easy to handle, did not fight him when he retreived it from the cage. If I was on my own, I do not know that I could be so hands on. But, then again, I am not that hungery.

I have handled small game before, mostly chicken, and it has been a few years, so he decapitated it and hung it up, and I went to the computer to review for any tips. We think it is most respectful for the animal to make use of it, and I do not have a dog to give it to. I skinned it, with a mind to try and tan and save it, and did the rest. Easier than chickens. SO, this part I know I can handle. I gave my aquaintance the meat I have not heard how it was to eat yet. Cottontail is good eating, I know I ate it as a child when my father hunted.

The saving the fur is harder than I thought. I now found out I could have just put it in the freezer to deal with another day, which is what ended up happening as I got tired. I was trying to follow someones video instructions for egg yolk tanning, and he wanted me to scrapre the fresh green skin, which is very delicate. ANd hard. And takes along time, and it could be that the Mora knife I had been using for butchering was too sharp and not the best shape. Yes, I nicked it in various places ! WHich is why I am practicing now. It got late, so I put it in an empty bread plastic bag in the freezer for now. Later research has me thinking that I do not want to do egg tanning, I want something quicker, so will likely use salt/alum. I have alum for natural fabric dying around the house anyways, and it seems that the instructions for that have it soaked in solution first that makes the scraping much easier. Also skins can be saved in the freezer to do all at once.

Because, there are more bunnies, I am realy having a problem with them. So, last night before chores, I reset the live trap, and this morning woke to another cottontail. I think it will be easier to do more at once, so this bunny has been transferred to a larger cage I have and the trap is reset down below the garden again.

mountainmoma's picture

Here is a link to an affordable bolt gun, it actually looks more like a thick syringe. I know people who raise and eat rabbit and this type of device is what they use. Raising rabbit for food is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to have meat, and rabbits can eat many types of garden excess. Much easier and less expensive to feed than chickens. Easier to get ready for the table, too.

You cannot raise rabbits where I live due to rampant mixamatosis in the wild rabbit population, the wild rabbits are now immune, but it kills domestic rabbits very quickly. Spread by misquitoes and such, so would be very hard to keep domestic rabbits safe. But, this is just a very localised problem, I know people in other parts of the county that do successfully raise rabbit for the table. And, this disease is very rare in the USA, we just happen to live where it is rampant

Very nice report, Mountain moma. If you raise livestock (other than bees and worms), what do you do when they stop producing? I'm thinking of old laying hens who traditionally got turned into fricassee. Or if you let your hens raise their own replacements (must have a rooster on hand for this), what do you do with the young roosters? Traditionally, they got eaten young or, if you were handy and quick, they got table-top surgery and got turned into capons.

Mmmm. Capons are supposed to be very good eating.

We are now dogless and the rabbits are overrunning our yard and garden. The groundhogs will be showing up next (Muffie kept them in check by breaking their varmint necks).

I look at them and think, could I do it? They're eating my food.

Thanks again for your report from the field.

mountainmoma's picture

I have now heard good reports on the hopper popper,and they have a size small which is what cottontails would need. SLide the bunny neck into the groove, keep ahold of the back feet and lean back, quick and non-traumatic, dislocates the neck/breaks nerve

If I can do it, anyone can do it.

lathechuck's picture

I once watched my father shoot a rabbit, skin it, clean it, and cut it up for stew. The muscles were still twitching and jumping as he put them into the pot. Is that something like your experience, or do you hang them out to drain long enough that the entire animal is thoroughly dead before continuing?

lathechuck's picture

I bought an old laying hen from the farmer I buy eggs from, and thought I'd make a stew in the pressure cooker. Maybe I should have given it more time, but it was so tough as to be inedible. I now believe that hens too old to produce eggs should be used to enrich compost. Nothing goes to waste, unless it gets taken off-site in the trash. However, I should admit that we do not put meat, bones, or fat into our compost bin, because when we did that by accident, several years ago, a family of rats established residence. I was able to trap them to extinction, but it was unfortunate for both of us.

I've always heard you're not supposed to compost carcasses and bones but we've always composted the poultry carcass after boiling it for stock.

We haven't had a problem and we're lax about turning our compost faithfully. At least Younger Son buries things like that deep.

Maybe we've been lucky!